Fiddle me this
SYDNEY, N.S. — It's time to talk about a pair of CDs that I've been sitting on for a bit. Finally have time and space to try and do them justice.
"It's Happenin'" is the first release for Hailee LeFort, an East Margaree resident in her early 20s. She has played around Sydney a fair bit and has been in demand for dances and concerts across the island for the past few years.
For "It's Happenin.'" Hailee has reached out to friends in Prince Edward Island for support, with Ward MacDonald on piano and Brent Chaisson adding very capable guitar backup. They did the recording at Studio Dimache. It includes several of her own compositions, along with a great selection of locally composed and traditional material that will get your foot tapping.
The CD starts with a soulful version of Coilsfield House, using just the fiddle, before breaking into strathspeys and reels. That sets the tone for the recording, with much of it featuring close-to-the-floor tunes from the likes of Dan R. MacDonald, Howie MacDonald and Donald Angus Beaton. You learn quickly why they like her at the dances.
I'm very partial to the opening cut, "One Crow Sorrow, Two Crows Joy," as well as "A-Gold Standard," a very traditional set with a nice mix of tunes. "Over Time" also gives you a nice blast of jigs and "Double The Recipe" get the job done in style.
But it's not all about dance music. Hailee also includes several other notable pieces such as Mairi Rankin's "Lament for John Morris Rankin" which morphs into some down-and-dirty tunes, including "Hull's Reel" written by John Morris and "A Happy Home," a short and sweet piece composed by Ward MacDonald.
Meanwhile, New Waterford's Gillian Head takes a slightly different approach with her second recording, "Tidal." While there are a number of great dance groups on the CD, she's pushed the envelope somewhat in places, including tunes from Daniel Lapp, John Doyle and Martin Green (all well-known from Celtic Colours over the years).
This is not the simple, basic stuff. This is the twisty-turny stuff, tunes that get your attention and then makes you wonder just where it goes from here. It's a challenge but Gillian is up to it, even through Gamma Ray, a slice of Celtic jazz from the piano of Jason Roach. Jason and guitarist Mary Beth Carthy provide most of the backup but they are also joined by Colin Grant and Donnie Calabrese in several spots.
There are a number of cuts that got my attention, including "Gamma Ray." It's different, but well done, certainly more of a concert piece than something for a dance hall. "Jigzilla" and "The Last Set" are in there as well, lively and close to the floor.
Both recordings have something to offer. Both fiddlers are young and are still creating their style and both will be around for quite a while to come. Grab the CDs and enjoy them.